DRC ‘at a precipice’


Pro-democracy activists in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Lutte pour Le Changement (Lucha) movement have called for nationwide protests to demand that President Joseph Kabila steps down from power when his second full term expires. But these turned violent in the capital Kinshasa after police fired tear gas and live bullets to disperse hundreds of stone-throwing youths on Monday. Unrest continued overnight, with the headquarters of two opposition parties burnt down, according to AFP.

Armed men set fire to the headquarters of one of DRC’s main opposition parties early on Tuesday, a day after violent protests, the organization said, leaving at least two people dead inside, Reuters reports [HT:FPI].

Kinshasa, one of the biggest cities in Africa, was locked down after deadly political protests exploded against the president, claiming at least half a dozen lives, The New York Times adds.

The UN Mission in the DRC, known by the French acronym MONUSCO, expressed concern at the arrest of 16 civil society activists of the Union of Congolese Youth for Change.

The US and France have threatened to impose targeted sanctions on senior officials in the DRC after at least 17 people were killed in demonstrations organised by the opposition to protest against President Joseph Kabila’s apparent bid to cling to power after his term ends, notes The Financial Times.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is at a critical juncture, says Human Rights Watch. The government’s decisions about its next presidential election will be critical for the country’s future, Human Rights Watch said in a report released this week.

In the coming months, President Joseph Kabila could agree to step down at the end of his constitutionally mandated two-term limit on December 19, 2016, and allow for the organization of credible presidential elections. This could set the vast central African country on the path toward stronger democratic governance, the rule of law, and respect for human rights, marking a significant precedent for Congo and the entire region. However, should President Kabila seek to remain in power outside the clear limits of the constitution, the country risks violence, instability, and repression on a widespread scale.

Presidential term limits have been a common feature of African constitutions — but constitutional amendments have almost exclusively extended presidential term limits, notes Kamissa Camara, the senior program officer for Africa at the National Endowment for Democracy. Since the 1990s, at least 30 presidents in sub-Saharan African nations have tried to extend their regimes by tweaking constitutional term limits, she writes for The Washington Post.

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